EDITORIAL: Gas probe limits only give fuel to critics

B.C. Premier John Horgan has found a vehicle to give British Columbians some relief from the soaring gas prices gripping the province. Unfortunately, in an attempt to shield his New Democratic government from any criticism, Horgan has ensured that vehicle will never reach its destination.

The province announced an investigation into drivers’ pain at the pumps that will ask oil companies to explain their gas prices.

READ MORE: Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

The $1.61.9 price of a litre of regular gas at Greater Victoria gas stations has left many Capital Region drivers fuming. The price represents a cost of upwards of $50 a week for the average commuter, and that’s before any weekend getaways put that cost even higher.

In a letter to the B.C. Utilities Commission earlier this month, Horgan asked the BCUC to find out why wholesale – and pre-tax – prices are 24 cents higher in Vancouver than they are in Edmonton. “British Columbians want to know why refining margins are so much higher than in other parts of the country,” Horgan wrote. “In March 2019, refining margins for Vancouver were more than double the Canadian average.”

But Horgan watered down any potential findings of the investigation by insisting that it not look into the effect provincial gas taxes or policy has on the price. That handed his critics all the ammunition they needed to ensure the investigation gets any traction.

And the political precaution was entirely unnecessary. We are all aware that taxes make up a good chunk of gasoline prices. Here in Greater Victoria, according to a the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the province collects just under 29 cents on every litre by way of the provincial excise tax, carbon tax as well as the tax it collects on behalf of regional transit. But the few pennies those taxes have increased over the past year or two fail to explain the soaring prices at the pump. In fact, the province would have to eliminate all the taxes it collects just to reduce the cost to what it was less than two years ago.

The premier should have had the courage to let the investigation go where the facts lead it. By limiting its scope, he has only ensured that it will eventually sputter out.

READ MORE: Victoria sees highest gas prices on record

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